Fellow guest post - Welcome to Geelong

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Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 1.40.10 pm


The following post is from Ruth Pearson, 2015 City of Greater Geelong Fellow.

Beginning this fellowship, I had not visited the City of Greater Geelong, I knew nothing of its history, or culture, or of the obscene number of art supply stores it has to offer.  Welcome to Geelong!  I had a lot to learn.  Luckily I have been working with some great people including Kathy Reid (GovHack Geelong organiser) and Will McIntosh (of Geelong council), who quickly got me up to speed.

Geelong is a port city with a rich history of manufacturing industry.  With the transition of the manufacturing industry, Geelong has been a city in decline.  The economy is in need of more skilled jobs and the ability to attract and retrain business and innovation.

I have spent the last three weeks meeting with a variety of  council departments, local tech groups, educators  and businesses to understand the challenges Geelong faces and how open data could help.

I’ve learned that Geelong is challenged with things like crime, digital inclusion, graffiti and obesity.  The city centre has a number of empty shop fronts and there are areas of the city which have a bad reputation.  Interestingly, in these areas the perceptions of public safety are not matched with reality, (and there is data to prove it!).  As Geelong is developing, there is a lack of access to services which have not yet been built and young people struggle to find things to do.  Can Geelong  use open data to address underlying systemic problems?

BUT!!  Good news!  Geelong is rebranding.  It is rebranding  itself as a tourist destination, as the city at the gateway to the Great Ocean Road.  It is prioritising innovation and technology to make Geelong a 21st century smart city, and a destination for business, rather than just a commuter suburb of Melbourne.  Some large agencies (such as are TAC, NDIA, ABS) are already present or coming soon to Geelong.

It is quite beautiful on the water, and I often find myself taking photos of the bay when I’m wandering by:

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Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 1.39.10 pm
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Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 1.38.59 pm

In my first week, I went to meet the arts & culture folks who have their offices in the wool museum.  The wool museum is cool.  They have a huge loom which is often working making rugs.  Even when it’s not working there are hundreds of colourful threads stretched across its mechanisms.  Anyway, in the wool museum I came across another exhibition:  Geelong under construction!

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Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 1.42.27 pm

My first meeting was with Hayley Ince of Enterprise Geelong, who gave me a lot of useful information about where to find data on economic indicators for the Geelong region.  I learned that Geelong hosts an annual small business conference, which is already quite successful.  Another huge win for Geelong right now is that they have been chosen to host the 2016 Linux conference!  Woo!

Andrew Downie and Will McIntosh are leading the open data strategy at Geelong city council.  I’m working closely with Will, which has been such a pleasure.  Here we are drinking some of Geelong’s finest tea and coffee and planning the open data revolution:

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Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 1.43.55 pm

And I quote Mr McIntosh:  “Mark my words open data and GovHack will change the way government works.  It seriously will.  When you look at the examples already available they are incredible.  They will surpass the models we have internally.  They are better, faster and more intuitive.  This is government re-inventing itself.  If a storm is coming, set up some wind farms to get behind it, don’t be scared of it.”

As for my evenings in Geelong, I’ve hung out with the Geelong webdev meetup, learnt to knit, and made a new friend (Atticus).

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Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 1.44.55 pm